Japanese salaryman Tokyo photo Hibiya park workout

Salarymen with superhero strength band together to form a horizontal bar club.

Japanese salarymen tend to have an image of being overworked individuals who’ve had the souls sucked out of them by the company machine. So when our reporter Masanuki Sunakoma heard about a group of inspiring office workers who like to literally hang out in the park during lunchtime, he knew he had to go out and meet them.

▼ The group meets regularly in Hibiya Park, located a short two-minute walk from Tokyo Metro Hibiya Station in Chiyoda Ward.

Hibiya Park sits in a business district and is surrounded by government offices. With a large fountain and lots of greenery, including beautiful cherry blossom trees in spring, the park is an oasis for workers looking for a place to unwind during lunchtime.

While most people tend to spend some of their lunch hour sitting on park benches, one special group of salarymen prefer to hang out at the horizontal bars.

This is where Masanuki went to meet the salarymen, who’ve dubbed their group The Hibiya Horizontal Bar Club. One of the core members of the group, a man in his 60s called Mr Yoda, was first to arrive at the bars that day, and he greeted Masanuki warmly before removing his suit jacket and donning his “Hibiya Horizontal Bar Club” T-shirt.

Mr Yoda spoke to Masanuki about the group and how it started, telling him there were no set rules in the club, and that he began working out on the bars as a way to improve his shoulders, which had become stiff with age.

Masanuki was impressed by Mr Yoda’s commitment to the club, and was keen to see him do his thing on the bars.

As Mr Yoda approached the bar, Masanuki stood by the side to watch, anticipating that Mr Yoda might hang from the bars to stretch out his shoulders and not do much else.

Sure enough, Mr Yoda reached up and held on to the bar, giving his shoulders a good ‘ol stretch. It looked like he was enjoying the stretch in the sunshine, and Masanuki was about to applaud him for his efforts, but little did he know that Mr Yoda was just getting started.

▼ Mr Yoda began to swing himself back and forth, and then…

▼ …what the f#*k?

Masanuki gasped in astonishment as the salaryman in his 60s began to swing round and round and round and round on the bar in front of him. It was astonishing, awe-inspiring, and downright amazing.

Then, before he knew it, other members began appearing one after the other, donning their club T-shirts and taking turns to show off all the horizontal bar tricks they’d devised during their lunch breaks.

This little corner of Hibiya Park now looked like an audition venue for Cirque du Soleil. Masanuki was overwhelmed by the group’s gravity-defying stunts, and even more amazed that they managed to fit all this activity in during their lunch breaks.

▼ Check out the upper body strength!

Just as Masanuki began feeling embarrassingly inadequate for all the lunch breaks where he’d simply sat on his bum, another member, Mr Marshall, casually showed him his “Human Flag“.

Not to be outdone, Mr Yoda also showed Masanuki his Human Flag, only he chose to call it a carp streamer — a timely reference, given that carp streamers are soon to fly around the nation for Children’s Day on 5 May.

These salarymen, who work for leading companies in Tokyo, might look like sensible businessmen while dressed in their suits, but put them in front of a bar and their childlike spirit shines like the midday sun. For Yoda and his mates, it’s all in a day’s work — not only does it give them a good dose of much-needed stress relief in the middle of their workday, it gives them a circle of like-minded friends to unwind with too.

So next time you’re looking for a way to destress, you might want to keep an eye out for a horizontal bar in your neighbourhood. And if you’re in Hibiya Park at lunchtime on a weekday, feel free to stop by and say hi to these surprising salarymen. Just watching them is enough to re-energise you!

Related: Hibiya Park
Photos © SoraNews24
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